The Hoffman Hotel was built in 1852 by Daniel Hoffman. The hotel was built to provide food and lodging to visitors, jurors, and court officials who frequented the Gaston County Courthouse. The hotel was built in the Greek Revival style which was very fashionable at the time of its construction, and was inspired by the renewed interest in ancient Greek architecture.
The Greek Civil War was raging in the 1820’s and the American imagination was influenced by the drawings of the Greek temples and their public buildings. While we are probably most familiar with Greek Revival style plantation houses, with their impressive entrance ways adorned with their handsome columns and wide porticos, it was also an architectural style that was widely used on public buildings. The Hoffman Hotel, which currently has a two story porch supported by six slender columns and a gabled roof, which was added after the original construction of the hotel, is typical of Greek Revival style buildings.
Hoffman Family History
While Daniel was growing up, his father had become an influential member of the Lincoln County community. He was a successful farmer, owned a saw mill, grist mill and a cotton gin. He helped organize the Philadelphia Lutheran Church in Dallas, NC.
Daniel inherited his father’s gift for business; he had a successful farm on “old Yorkville” road two miles south of what is now Dallas. In 1852, six years after Gaston County was formed, Daniel built the 44 room Hoffman Hotel. After Daniel died in 1866 his nephew Jonas purchased the hotel and successfully managed it.
Jonas was already a successful businessman when he began managing the hotel in 1868. In 1850, he had invested in the first of Gaston County’s textile mills, the Woodlawn (or Pinhook), and had also invested in a railroad that ran from Chester, S.C. to Dallas.
During the Civil War he had been a secessionist, enlisting in the Confederate Navy in the last year of the war. After the war he became a Republican and served one term in the N.C house in 1867 and was a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention in 1875. He was an investor in the original Gaston Female College that was located in Dallas.
When Jonas died in 1901, his wife Frances and his 23 year old son John Puett Hoffman had joint ownership of the Hotel. Frances died in 1923 leaving John the sole owner. After the courthouse moved to Gastonia in 1911, the hotel’s business suffered a loss of business. In 1934, during the Great Depression, the hotel was foreclosed on for non-payment of taxes. The hotel passed on to private owners and was used for a variety of uses including a private residence, a teacherage dormitory, and a rooming house. In 1979, the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, Inc., which was at the time housed on the second floor of the “old” courthouse, purchased the property and renovated it for use as a museum.
The Carolina & Northwestern Train Depot
The Carolina & Northwestern Train Depot was built in 1903. It was originally located a few blocks south of the Gaston County museum on Main Street between Rhyne St. and College St. The depot was moved to its current location in 1977 to be used as an art center. Later, it served as a design shop for museum exhibits, before undergoing an extensive renovation in July of 2009, bringing it to its present condition.
The depot was donated to the Gaston County Museum by L.D. Guess, a former stationmaster in Dallas, who purchased the depot when railroad officials decided to shut down the Dallas office and made plans to demolish the structure. The Carolina & Northwestern Railroad officially merged with the Southern Railway in January of 1974, and in 1988 the tracks were removed from just north of Dallas through Lincolnton.
Construction of the Carolina & Northwestern Railroad
Gaston County Jail
In 1848 the Gaston County Jail was completed by Abraham Mauney and his slave workers, and Benjamin Morris became the county’s first sheriff. In the 19th century, it was customary for the sheriff and his family to live in the jail, so they occupied the lower floors while the prisoner’s jail cells were located on the second floor. It was expected that the sheriff’s wife and family would do the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for the prisoners.
The county was quiet from its inception through the end of the Civil War, but during the Reconstruction Period tensions between the Union League (a group of the County’s Republican Leader and moderates in the issue of race) and the KKK disrupted the community.
Robberies and burglaries were commonplace in the South during Reconstruction and violence swept through Gaston County. An infamous troublemaker, Anderson Davis, who had initially enthusiastically supported the Union League but later became a member of the Klan, was imprisoned in the Gaston County Jail after being arrested for a number of burglaries and robberies.
In 1884, the jail was the scene of a lynch mob who dragged an African-American man, Irvin McCully, who was accused of murdering a white farmer from the jail. As the mob rode south from the jail, down what is now Gaston Street, they hanged McCully where the Holland Bridge crossed Long Creek.
One occupant who stands out in the history of the Dallas jail is Caroline Shipp. She was the last person to die by legal hanging in Gaston County, and the last woman executed on the gallows in North Carolina. She was convicted of killing her son who was not quite a year old at the time. She was executed on January 22, 1892. Caroline’s story is surrounded in mystery, but this documentary aims to tell the facts about the case and what historians know to be true.
This video requires Quicktime to view. Special thanks to Mike Baxter and New Granada Productions.
The building is now owned by the Gaston County Museum, but the building is not currently open for tours. The museum is working towards renovating the building to house an archive research center, a jail exhibit, and provide meeting space and additional exhibition space.
131 West Main Street, Dallas, North Carolina, 28034